Branch 22

Over the next two decades support staff worked through their CSA branch for better working conditions and wages. However, they experienced frustrations at achieving these objectives for a number of reasons. The great diversity of employees and occupations, combined with relative isolation of certain employees from others on campus, meant that many staff either could not identify with Branch 22, or did not see any direct personal benefits from participating in the Association. Since membership was voluntary, Branch Executives were continually faced with the need to find ways to recruit new members and broaden the support base for the Association so it could claim to speak for staff.

Complicating efforts to sign up these new members was an apparent impotence of Branch 22 to resolve grievances presented to the employer, or to influence terms of employment or working conditions. Social Credit provincial government labour legislation that covered the University basically left the employer in charge and able to manipulate their staff. Support staff had little recourse in either negotiations or grievances. University employees and branch members, through their Department Representatives, would inform the Branch Executive of concerns and demands, making recommendations to pass on to the Negotiating Committee of the Provincial Executive of the CSA. This committee would meet with the University Administration, reach a settlement, and then pass whatever new terms were agreed upon to Branch members through their Executive.

The University dealt from a very strong hand and the Branch was often faced with a take-it-or-leave-it position. There was little the members could do about it since the University was not even legally bound to uphold any terms reached with the CSA. And Branch 22 had neither sufficient numbers of signed members nor broad enough general support to significantly influence negotiations on employment and working conditions.

The University -- through what has come to be known today as a "Sweetheart" deal -- would usually match wages and working conditions similar to those obtained by civil servants who worked for the government and were also represented by the CSA. Consequently, most of the staff felt little need to work actively to build strong representation at the local level.

The Branch was not in a position to bargain very effectively for staff during these times. However, it was able to successfully provide services and activities for the care and well-being of co-workers that mark most traditional employee associations. A benevolence committee was among the first committees established by Branch 22, collecting and distributing funds to members in need. A housing fund was created to purchase a building to house the Association.

Annual social events were sponsored and became major news on campus. In its first year, Branch 22 began a tradition of an annual Christmas party for families of support staff. (This continued yearly until the 1970s when NASA directed its funds to orphans and social organizations in Edmonton.) Sports and recreation also provided opportunities to socialize with co-workers. Clubs, tournaments, and gala events brought staff together and played an important role in staff relations.